My FIRST Birth - My Healthy Hospital Birth - The Birth Story of Weston Blair
It has been a while since I have shared, but I am feeling newly inspired to finally write and share the birth stories of my two babies.
I personally love reading birth stories! It is not for everyone, but I think that reading positive birth stories during your pregnancy as you prepare for birth really helps - it can help you release fears, trust your body, and truly trust the birthing process. Our bodies are amazing, and birth is amazing! Birth can be magic, an amazing and truly transformative event. All women deserve to feel that magical, amazing birth experience. And it starts with believing that it's possible, and believing that birth can be really beautiful.
I have gone through a major transition, from working as a NICU nurse to now working with pregnant mamas and babies teaching prenatal, mommy baby and tot yoga at hOMe holistic Family Center in Overland Park as well as educational workshops. I am still surrounded by birth and babies, and able to do what I love while also creating a rhythm and routine of HOME for my babies and I am just really grateful for this season.
We have so many choices to make as mothers, beginning with trying to conceive and pregnancy. And only we truly know the right choices for ourselves and our families. And I wish, in a perfect world, we could lift each other up and celebrate everyone's unique choices, and the freedom that we have to choose. I have learned quickly that there is SO much that is put on mothers! Whether you choose to birth in a hospital, birth center, or home, whether you use a midwife or OB, whether you choose to stay at home with your children or stay immersed in your career, whether you choose the route of a day care center or in home nanny, breastfeed or bottle feed, the decisions we face go on and on and on - I just wish we would all lift each other up, realize that we do not know what it is like in another mama's shoes, and celebrate ALL women and mothers' choices for their family. We know what's best for our family, ourselves, and our babies - I hope you remind yourself of this often and find others in your corner who cheer you on, too mamas!
I begin with all of this because I am sharing the story of my first baby's birth. He was born in a healthy, beautiful, and amazing way - and in a hospital. We had a great experience. We had the best of the best - an amazing OB who aligned with me and my values and desires for my birth. I was treated with respect and grace from all of my providers. I also worked at the time in the hospital in which I delivered, and it was overall a really great experience. I know that not everyone shares these same privileges within their birth stories, and I want to acknowledge that, and say that I see you and you are not alone and your birth trauma that you have is important to share and process.
I also think it's important that we share our birth stories with whomever might be reading them because birth stories are so important! We carry them with us forever and hold them close to our hearts. They become a part of us, and they change our story. When I was pregnant and preparing for birth, I loved reading others' birth stories. They help us to "normalize" birth in a world where we don't often have experience with birth first hand. In our past, as women we would have been a part of the births in our families and communities, and we might have seen births more often than we do today. And even worse, we are given images of births via the media and these images are false - portraying overly painful, completely unrealistic births. (I mean who wrote these "birth scenes"? Women sitting in a hospital bed screaming their heads off - that is not how birth was ever intended for us nor is it how it has to be!). I'm not saying that birth isn't painful or that women look perfectly serene while birthing, but it's a much more natural process than this, and we deserve to hear those stories in preparation for our own births. Birth stories help us to see the positive, beautiful, sacred, amazing birth outcomes. They make birth real, natural, raw, and beautiful and can help to eliminate that fear that comes from our cultural narrative. Birth does not have to be something to fear. One of my favorite things is helping to dismantle this thought in new mothers - I love sharing my birth stories with new moms, sharing what worked for me, sharing empowered moments and holistic tips and wisdom that help women believe that they can also have a beautiful, healthy, and sacred birth.
So I'll start from the beginning of our journey.
I feel like I don't even recognize this person anymore - such a wild few years it has been!
I was working as a NICU nurse at the time when I became pregnant with my first baby. We didn't find out the gender, and I was just open to the ride of a lifetime. We were overjoyed about our pregnancy, and I anticipated birth with awe, wonder, and some anxiety! Our journey began with a fertility struggle, one in which I will share someday soon. We became pregnant after making dietary modifications, lowering stress levels, taking all kinds of natural supplements, and improving our overall wellness with the guidance of a Naturopathic MD. So our pregnancy was exciting, emotional... all the things!
As a NICU nurse I had some pretty significant anxiety surrounding birth - seeing the small percentage of patients in the hospital that ended in traumatic births and a NICU journey made it difficult to trust completely that my story would be different. Those anxieties did impact my pregnancy, and I really struggled on and off with anxiety and depression throughout those 9 months. I shared them with my husband and my doctor - I basically sent myself into repetitive cycles of anxiety thinking about how my emotions were impacting my baby. I had so much guilt throughout that pregnancy, thinking that I wasn't being a good mother for my baby, thinking that I was already changing his brain and hurting him... motherhood is just SO much. The motherhood guilt I felt was so real, and I just hate that other mothers experience that too.
By the time our due time arrived, I had really made peace with all of these fears, anxieties, and moments of guilt. I reached a point where I just felt complete peace about birth - and for an anxious, type A, hyper-controlling person, this was a big deal! I don't know how I came to that peace, it just happened naturally. It's like you reach this point in your pregnancy where you have to cross over the threshold, and trust that your body will birth this baby, your body was designed to birth your baby! I think if you allow that peace to overcome you, allow yourself to trust your body and the birthing process as a whole, you can feel that peace too!
There is something really special about that time right before birth... It's like our bodies just know and prepare us naturally for it. The nesting drive kicked in, I worked my last shift at the hospital at 38 weeks and 6 days I think, and then I had 24 hours to rest and prepare before going into labor naturally. It was such a sweet, exciting time and I will never forget it!
The day before I went into labor, I remember it was a Sunday. I slept in, we had a slow Sunday at home, we did some laundry, folded baby clothes, and I began to write my thank-you notes for our baby shower (I don't think I ever finished those - oops!). My good friend dropped off the bassinet and swing we were borrowing from her, we took a walk with our dogs, and then went to bed early. I had been having more and more Braxton Hicks contractions as I neared my due time, but that entire day I had pretty regular contractions. About 10 minutes apart, these contractions were still pretty mild but regular in their timing and rhythm. It made me pretty excited. I remember walking our dogs and pausing for contractions, just getting excited that my body was doing what it was meant to. (For a little background, I actually had Braxton Hicks contractions throughout most of my pregnancy - beginning about 23 weeks. I was working full time at the hospital, and often they would happen during a shift. It became just a part of my pregnancy, and there were no other concerns. Looking back now, maybe I was dehydrated more often? Or maybe my body was just preparing for its first birth... who knows! I did not have as may Braxton Hicks contractions with my 2nd pregnancy, so I'm not sure what caused it).
Around 11:30pm on Sunday night, I woke up with pretty intense contractions. I was trying to sleep through them, but they were getting more and more intense and I needed to move around. Something that I did then that I would not do now - I got up, took a shower, SHAVED (I'm laughing at myself because for some reason that was really important to me - I hate this but I wanted to appear put together - I definitely did not do that with my second birth - it's amazing how motherhood can change you for the better!) I then paced around our bedroom and began timing the contractions. My husband slept for a while and eventually got up with me. I became more and more anxious with anticipation, fear, excitement, all the things. With it being my first birth, I just didn't know what to expect and what was normal! I told myself that I wanted to stay home and labor at home for as long as I could, but in that moment they seemed pretty intense. Looking back now, I know I was still in the beginning stages of labor and was still able to talk and do things in between the contractions. My husband became increasingly more anxious about getting to the hospital. At the time my contractions were pretty regularly 3-5 mins apart and lasted about a minute each. Knowing that based on those numbers, I could be admitted to the hospital, we decided to go in. It was randomly snowing (On November 11th, this was strange!) so we anticipated wanting to avoid Monday morning traffic and getting caught in a snow storm. We drove to the hospital on that snowy Monday morning at about 3am. Looking back, the drive was intense and painful but not that bad! I was definitely in early labor. I really wished I would have stayed home just a little longer and let myself fully relax, I believe my labor would have gone a lot faster if I had just let myself relax and rest. I did get a little time to snuggle with my pups and labor in my comfort zone for a little while, but not long enough.
I checked into the hospital and waited in triage for a while. At the time I was just 3cm when I checked in (I was pretty discouraged and wished I would have stayed home longer darn it!). They let me hang out in triage for an hour or so and I had progressed to 4cm at that time, so they gave me a room. Triage was not super fun (bright lights, tiny room, not much space to move around). It was close to shift change at the hospital when I was moved to our room and introduced to our nurse, who I loved. She helped me try some new positions and let me walk around the unit. I was pretty embarrassing walking around the labor and delivery unit with my hospital gown, tall cozy socks, and winter boots - that's definitely not the "head space" you want to be in when you're in labor! Knowing what I know now, I'm sure that anxiousness did not help my labor progress. Of course I saw some coworkers throughout the morning, and really just felt like it wasn't the exact environment I wanted to birth in. The lights were on bright in the unit and the hustle and bustle of shift change was in full force, and I was feeling pretty bummed that I wasn't at home laboring.
My nurse was pretty helpful in getting me in optimal laboring positions. I was experiencing "back labor" pretty intensely, like ALL in my lower back, and I had this feeling that baby wasn't in the best position (and possibly even forward facing or "sunny side up" which is not optimal). My nurse helped me to use the "peanut ball" laying on my belly/side with one leg up and around the peanut ball. I literally felt baby move and shift as I was contracting, and it seemed to help get him in a better position. I thought this was great and proves that babies can shift and change positions throughout labor.
My OB came in and talked to me, checked me, and asked if I wanted her to break my water. I really didn't want to artificially rupture my membranes, and wanted everything to progress naturally. But I was anxious, and knew from my experience of birth in the hospital and first time mothers that I didn't want this to drag out for over 12 or 24 hours - so after some time to think about it and walk around the unit some more, I allowed her to rupture my membranes.
After that, everything just got more intense. I quickly asked for the tub because I had a birthing tub in my hospital room (although it was pretty small, it still did the trick). Once I got in the warm tub, I relaxed a little bit but then began vomiting. At the time, I panicked. I was asking my husband and my nurse if this was normal, and I demanded to be checked. I felt shaky and was throwing up with each contraction, already exhausted and overwhelmed. I was just 5 cm, and I got pretty discouraged. I wasn't really getting an answer as to if this was normal to be throwing up, so I started getting really stressed. I wished I would have allowed myself more time, time to rest and breathe, time to be in a dark room and just breathe through the contractions for a while. Looking back, I wasn't that far off. Knowing my body now and knowing how I birth, I do get sick when my labor gets intense, but it goes away quickly. Usually it's a few intense contractions that cause me to get sick, and I believe it's my body's way of emptying everything out and preparing for transition. Or maybe it was the start of transition for me as it was with my second birth. But at the time, I had no idea if I would continue this for hours and hours or progress quickly. I was overwhelmed and really wished I would have had a doula by my side to comfort and reassure me. My nurse was amazing, but she couldn't be with me constantly. My husband was also a little fearful, and kept looking at me wide-eyed not really know what to say or how to comfort me! I could tell he was afraid, and that made me feel even more out of control and overwhelmed - I'm such an advocate of birth doulas! Get a doula for both you and your birthing partner - you won't regret it! I learned that while we are birthing, we instinctually just want women around us to support us. My husband was amazing and stayed pretty calm, but there is something so comforting about another female in the room who has been through it, who can comfort and provide real support and wisdom in the moment. But I gotta give props to my husband for trying! He is an amazing father and husband and really tried to show up for me as well as he could.
So after being in the tub for less than an hour, I asked for an epidural. I reached the point of overwhelm and panic, which is a terrible place to be during labor! I believe this moment of panic is when the cascade of interventions and complications can begin. We truly are meant to have our healthiest, smoothest births in a calm, zero-stress, safe environment. The moment these stress hormones kick in, it begins changing our birthing process. It stalls our labor, stalls our progression, keeps the cervix from opening - it's our body's natural instinct kicking in, telling us "we are not safe to birth here, wait until we are completely safe". In this way, I think that birthing in a hospital has it's own set of risks, but can also be really safe depending on your birth and your specific needs. That being said, hospital births can also be safe and sacred - if I had a doula with me, had someone to reassure me and keep me calm and centered, and if I had prepared with guided meditations or ways to cope with the contractions, I think that my birth would have gone a little bit differently.
Now back to Weston's birth...
I asked for the epidural at about 12pm. This was about 12 hours from when my labor really began. It took about an hour for the order to go through and for the anesthesia team to come in and administer the epidural. Once I had it in my head that I was getting the epidural, that was the longest hour of my life! I was stressed, anxious, not able to breathe through the contractions, they were intense, I was still getting sick, etc. I was not super kind to the anesthesia team as they asked me all of the routine questions and set up the procedure. I had seen it all before in my experience with hospital births, so I was a pretty typical birthing woman demanding to my birthing team that I needed the epidural NOW - not my best moment, but I have no regrets! I also had a moment during this time where my father-in-law tried to bust into our hospital room (and we wished to have no other family in our space while birthing, so you can imagine I was not thrilled by this when he tried to come in! It was just a funny moment that I remember - our extended family is big, eclectic, and so loving and they were all there having a "waiting party" in the waiting room)
I don't remember at exactly what time I got the epidural, but I believe it was after 2pm. After that, I was able to finally rest. I took a nap while laying on my side, and my husband went and updated our family who were all anxiously waiting in the waiting room.
By 4:30pm, my nurse checked me and I was beyond ready to push... baby was coming! My epidural was working pretty well so I was unaware of any sensations from the waist down. It's such a strange feeling. It almost made his birth feel like an "out of body experience". We had to wait for the doctor to come back in for about 30 minutes, so we delayed pushing. I took some time to put chapstick on, take a drink of water, brush my hair - all things that I did NOT do during my second birth, so interesting how motherhood changes us so completely. I also reached out to my coworker and close friend who was on shift that day in the NICU, and she was able to come down right before I started pushing to be with me during the birth. Her presence was amazing - she was truly a light in the birthing room! I had another coworker who I loved there for the birth as well, and she actually was able to catch the baby and help do his initial measurements and birth weight. It was really sweet and special having people I loved and had worked with for a long time be present for my first baby's birth - it made the experience so light, sweet, and sacred.
I pushed for less than 20 minutes when the doctor finally arrived. Pushing was not difficult at all from what I can remember, and my doctor had baby Weston in her arms so quickly! She said "we have a penis!" and placed him on my chest. I looked at sweet Weston in awe - the first thing I noticed about him were his little lips! He had pouty little lips while he cried that we later called "the wiiiiips". He had the sweetest expression on his face, and honestly he looked like my dad (which sounds strange) which is who he was named after. Weston Blair was born at 5:35pm and my life was forever changed from that moment forward. When the doctor told us that he was a boy, I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out I was pregnant so I was just waiting for that announcement! I had been anticipating this moment for so long, and was just in awe and wonder and amazement that I was now a mother to this perfect baby boy.
I love birth, and I love my births. Every birth is so unique, and those memories will be with us forever. My first birth wasn't perfect, but was exactly the birth I was meant to have. And the outcome of a healthy mom and healthy baby were all I could ask for. I was grateful for my birth team and all of the support I had in the room, and my biggest piece of wisdom I could offer to mamas is to trust your body, prepare to surrender in labor, and prepare a birth team that you truly trust.
The few nights spent in the hospital with my new baby were so sweet - we had such a great experience, and I really wouldn't change anything for his birth. My first birth was meant to go that way, and I learned so much from it. And from there I entered motherhood surrounded by the support system of friends, family, and coworkers who I loved and trusted. I'm so so so blessed by my births and hope that my birth stories encourage you as you prepare for your birth, mama. Just remember, you were made for this.
And the newborn phase is just the sweetest, what a blessing it is to be this sweet boy's mama.
Wishing you the best birth for you and your baby, and I hope you love your birth story too mama.
All the best,